This Sunday is the one set aside in the church year to commemorate the Reformation. It is a time when we remember God’s word becoming much more readily accessible to the people. It is a time of bold testimony and brutal consequences. So many of us take for granted having scripture in our own language at our fingertips (and on our computer screens). We take for granted the great religious liberties we have. We take for granted the many freedoms granted to us in Christ. Those privileges and freedoms have not always been so and in many parts of the world still aren’t. How might we live into the freedom Christ has won for us this day?
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." 33 They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, "You will be made free'?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. "
One of the most disturbing comments that sometimes arises as people leave worship service is “Nice sermon pastor, you really told them!” Them?!? Who would that be? When I preach I am talking to all—very much including myself. I hope the words coming from my mouth on behalf of, and I hope and pray inspired by, God are for US. We do that though, don’t we? We hear a sermon and say “Boy, it’s too bad Clem isn’t here today, he really needed to hear that one. “ Or “Once we can post our sermons on-line I’ll be sending links to Eunice, she really needs to get with the program.” Look at the people in our gospel lesson today—“Who us?!? You can’t be talking to us, we’ve never been slaves. We don’t need freedom. Who are you talking to Jesus?!?”
Scripture is for all but we can in many ways only take it in for ourselves. Scripture is living and active dividing down to joint and marrow (see Hebrews 4:12). For scripture to do the appointed work we need to get near it. We need access to it in languages we can read. We need it opened up and proclaimed in words that are accessible to us. Luther and Gutenberg and your pastor(s) and your small group studies and your individual time have all been part of opening scripture to you. You are invited to let it do the work it will without hiding, without ducking, without diverting or flinching.
There is a classic picture on the front of Beyond the Far Side where a bear in the sights of a rifle is pointing to another bear. He is trying to avoid the killing blow. He is much like the parishioners commending the sermon that ought to speak to the other person. God’s words are for us (and of course for others). God’s words have work to do in us. God’s words will convict us of our enslavement to sin, our broken ways and our hopeless future apart from God. God’s words can be killing. But it is a death that leads to life. God’s word will also and most importantly set us free. Jesus, the Son, aka the Word, will set us free. And when we are set free we are free indeed.
Stephen Curtis Chapman’s song “I’m Free” marvelously proclaims John 8:36. You can find a clip at:
The outro of the song is “If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed!” over and over again fading out. Amen. May that song be on our dying lips and every day until them.
God, thank you for the bold and powerful work of Luther and the Reformers. Help us draw into the freedom of Christ. Help us not duck your reproofs and judgments but allow them to do their work. Continue to set us free in Jesus. Amen.